Words of praise go a long way in developing positive self-esteem in kids. An average 2-year-old hears more than 430 negative statements a day and only about 30 words of encouragement, according to a study at the University of Iowa. So giving kids sincere praise should focus on a child’s efforts and not the outcome of their endeavors.
1. Children need to have a realistic assessment of their strengths and weaknesses. Developing good self-esteem is essential to preparing them for the challenges they will face as they grow and develop. It is important to help kids feel like they are capable of doing things and have the ability to learn new skills. Finding a good balance between showing love through praise and giving opportunities to make mistakes without reprisal will help build healthy self-value.
2. Kids with low self-esteem are often afraid of trying new things if they are rewarded for doing well with adjectives or adverbs like “incredibly good” or “very fast” or “fantastic.” They feel pressure to always attain that level of praise, therefore causing inner turmoil of not wanting to fall short of their last assessment. This can lead to their inability to solve problems or challenges. Parents can help them build healthy self-esteem by not over-praising and by making learning fun. Communicating that their value is not performance-based can help relieve performance anxiety.
3. Self-esteem comes from having a sense of belonging in a family and in a peer group. While self-esteem changes as a child’s perception of his world broadens, it still needs to be rooted in love and acceptance. Kids need to understand that we all have gifts and talents and it is OK to be good at one thing but struggle in another. It is important to create an atmosphere of acceptance and encourage the kids to try new things, even if that means not getting it right the first time. Kids need to understand there is value in learning through failure, as it teaches them to persevere.
4. Teaching kids to do their best is a valuable lesson, because developing pride in what we do is paramount for having self-respect. Learning the difference between doing well and doing it perfectly is important as well; if kids think they have to perform to that standard, it may discourage them from trying new things, which will undermine their self-confidence.
Praising kids is a vital part of teaching them to try new things and step out of their comfort zones. When praising, focus on their actions rather than their attributes. For instance, “You worked really hard on your homework,” versus “You’re so pretty” or “You’re so smart.” Use praise rather than rewards when encouraging kids to try something new and acknowledge it when you see skills come easy to them. Raising kids with healthy self-esteem and confidence will help them as they enter school, college and beyond.
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